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Q&A with Machine Golf’s Dave Billings

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You voted, and Machine Golf’s Delta Prototype won the GolfWRX Custom Putter challenge.

We recently spoke with Dave Billings, President/CEO of Dogleg Right and Machine Golf, and master craftsmen of the winning putter, to learn more about what went into creating the masterpiece, what keeps him motivated to keep innovating, his thoughts on counterbalanced putters and the big news of what’s next for Machine Golf and Dogleg Right.

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WRX: Dave, congratulations to you and Machine Golf on winning our Custom Putter Showcase against some stiff competition. What was your concept for developing the Delta Proto? Describe a little bit of the process that went into building such a unique putter.

DB: Thanks very much! It’s a real honor, especially given the reputations of the other participants and all their great entries. Congrats to the other competitors for entering and creating such cool putters. I really liked them all.

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The GolfWRX Custom Putter challenge winning putter: The Delta Proto.

As you know, the competition was described to us as really being up to us as far as how we wanted to approach it. I’ve enjoyed the Custom Biker Build-Offs for many years, and so I approached it along those lines. I saw our opportunity to create something really new and totally custom, and hopefully something new that people hadn’t ever seen before. At the same time, I wanted to highlight and showcase some of our newest customization, fitting and adjustability technologies.

DaveBillingsDaveBillings2
Dave Billings’ work station, where he dreams up ideas and crafts putters like the Delta Proto. Click the photos to enlarge them. 

So with the Delta Project, we’ve got two new patent-pending adjustability technologies here in this one putter, along with some of our other existing patented technologies. The existing technologies you’ve seen before in our putters including modular hosels, interchangeable flanges and adjustable weights and how they all work in concert with one another.

To that we added the new Delta Mod Adjusters, which allow you to adjust the loft, lie and toe hang of our putters. You can adjust each independently or in combination. We’re really excited about what this represents, especially as it applies to virtually all of our putters, and can be used in fitting and also in adjusting to course conditions such as different green speeds, grass types, so on. They are really small — you can hardly see them, but they work in a big way. And they can make small specification changes or large changes, or no changes, depending on your needs.

WRXdeltaProto
The Delta Proto allows golfers to adjust the back flange, as well as the loft, lie and toe hang.

The second new technology is the interchangeable and adjustable grip technology that we call the NextGrip.  This allows you to change the grip from any standard size grip to oversize, and even longer grips and counterbalanced grips. In the Delta Putter Project, we showed the putter changing from a standard length, standard setup putter all the way to a heavier head, longer, counterbalanced setup. That’s pretty cool and beneficial, because not everyone is sure they want to buy a new counter-balanced putter. This way you can test, adjust or change to find the setup that is best for you and your game. And if they don’t like counterbalanced it switches right back to standard.

And, we added a twist in that we brought back a prototype HOG Putter shaft from 20 years ago to show off the counterbalanced setup. The shaft is 1 inch in diameter, and is non-tapered, providing even pressure for both hands and a great platform to find the perfect balance point and feel for each individual. The butt also has a unique weighting mechanism, using the same adjustable weights that we use for the head. The head was made heavy for the counterbalanced setup by simply swapping one flange for the other.

There are a lot more details that went into the materials, custom milling and finishes to try to make this putter really stand out, but the concepts above are what I really wanted to enter in this competition and share with everyone. I’m thrilled that the readers liked it for what it represents.

WRX: Tell me about how the idea for the HOG putter shaft and aluminum grip came about, and what was the reaction to it 20 years ago? 

DB: The HOG Putter actually came about out of happenstance. I was working on a modular golf bag design for a new golf venture. This is back in 1994. I was making a prototype in my den, and had all these bag tubes lying around of different lengths. My son David, then 2 at the time, picked up one of the shorter tubes and started putting a ball with it. I noticed that he had this really stable, smooth shoulder stroke. I had previously given him a chopped down putter with a small grip and shaft and he had been really wristy with it, whacking it all over the place. So the larger shaft and grip just naturally and ergonomically took his hands out of the equation. So I started prototyping it and felt we really had something. My son is now 23, about to graduate college and has been working for me part time on the side, helping with CAD work and some patent work too, including on these new technologies, which is awesome. Crazy how time flies.

HOGputtergrip
The 2014 version of the Hog putter grip, made from 6061 Aerospace Aluminum Alloy, next to two leather interchangeable grips. 

The reaction when we introduced the first HOG was really wild, and it was exciting and a lot of fun to be involved with. We made it into most of the golf magazines and even Sports Illustrated from our first PGA Show and really set the industry abuzz — and started selling them all over the world. We also started getting some really good players interested, using and then winning with them, and that was also really exciting. Of course the product evolved over the years, but we really were successful in pioneering an oversized grip that was thin and light, straight and non-tapered, and also an oversized shaft technology that was stiffer, more stable, lower in torque and higher in overall MOI.  Some people say now we were just a little ahead of our time. But 20 years?

I will say this, when other companies claim to have the first, or the only non-tapered grip technology, you may want to question that — take a look at the HOG, both old and new. We think we’ve contributed a lot to the field, and have a lot more coming that players will be interested in and can benefit from.

WRX: A lot of putter companies are moving the way of counterbalance. Do you think counterbalancing is the solution for players when the anchor ban goes into effect?

DB: Counter-balancing is a good solution for lots of players, not just those looking for an alternative to the belly, long or broomstick putters. Certainly those who are needing or wanting to switch because of the upcoming anchoring ban should give them a try, and experiment with different specs and setups. It really is very personal, so having adjustability of the weights, grip sizes and lengths is a real plus in my mind. Fitting really helps too. Others may want to try the arm-lock or arm-rest types — and our Delta Project putter can also convert to those setups as well — or even face on or side-saddle-style putting. I’m actually working on several of those in projects right now and that’s also interesting and actually a valid and historic solution. In fact, Sam Snead used a HOG side-saddle for several years in the Legends, the Tradition and the Masters Par 3 tourney and in his bag on the first tee. So it’s fun to be working on those ideas again, and bring them forward with additional technologies and our new manufacturing capabilities. I’m really excited about all this new work and what it can mean for golfers looking for the right putter for them.

WRX: Whether its modular hosels, aluminum counter-balanced putter grips or interchangeable torched SS Damascus flanges with bongo cuts, you seem to always strive to push the envelop. What pushes you to want to innovate and be different, and how has that helped establish Machine Golf in the industry?

DB: Thanks. We do try to push the envelope. We love the process and work that goes into making something that’s new. It’s a challenge, and it’s exciting during the processes of problem solving and coming up with new solutions – sometimes to old questions like weighting, and sometimes entirely new questions like how do we best make a grip interchangeable.

DaveBillings3
Machine Golf’s factory where some of the most innovative putters in the industry get thought-up and constructed.

I’m proud that we’ve done so much innovation in the fields of adjustability and fitting technologies. We have over a dozen patents issued and pending in that space and they are becoming more important every day. Now most of the industry is going that way, so that is both rewarding and validating. At least my wife and kids don’t roll their eyes quite as much as they used to when I tell them about one of my crazy new ideas.

I think our customers do enjoy seeing us take older historic designs and make them in a new way, or give them new features and benefits especially so they can be better fit and customized to their specs and preferences. Our customers know we’ll do just about any custom designing, milling, grinding and hand shaping and finishing to make the club fit them better, and look better to their eye. In that sense we try to take the effort and dedication most of the big brands provide to their tour players, but we work hard to do that for every single customer. Our customers really appreciate that. Who doesn’t like feeling like their getting a product fit and made for them as well as a tour player?

It does help a lot that we make all our products in-house in our own machine shop. That’s been a real game changer for us, as we’re able to really put our hearts and souls into each and every putter we make.

WRX: What are some new products we can expect in the near future, and what’s next on the horizon for Machine Golf and Dogleg Right? 

DB: That’s a great question, but one that I’m going to have to be less forthcoming on because of some of the new work that we’re doing that we can’t quite publicize yet. I wish I could tell you today, but it won’t be too much longer. It is safe to say that we’ve got some really exciting developments in the pipeline, and that I’m very eager to launch and tell everyone about.  So stay tuned!

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Luckily, we aren’t left on too much of a cliffhanger, because the “exciting developments” have since been revealed to the public. DogLeg Right and Bobby Jones announced their partnership on Nov. 20, and are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Bobby Jones company in 2014.

BobbyJones

Dogleg Right, with the help of Dave Billings, hand-crafted three series of putters — Silver Anniversary, Grand Slam and Bespoke Art — to celebrate. All three of the designs will feature Machine Golf’s innovative technologies, including adjustable weights, interchangeable necks, and the ability to adjust lie, loft and toe hang of the putters.

“When you study the history of Bobby Jones, one of the many things that comes to light is Mr. Jones’ passion for the science and art of club making,” said Andy Bell, President/CEO of Jones Global Sports. “We’ve known since taking over the leadership of the Bobby Jones brand this was an area where we wanted to expand our footprint strategically. This expansion begins with putters and we’re thrilled to partner with Dave Billings and Dogleg Right. They are putter experts and their committment to custom design, performance, playability and world-class service is readily apparent. We are proud that the first putters bearing Bobby Jones name in 25 years will be produced in partnership with the best in the business.”

Silver Anniversary ($699.99)

BobbyJonesprototype

The “Silver Anniversary” model celebrated Bobby Jones’ 25th Anniversary with modern classic designs crafted from “American Rustless” 303 steel, with a multi-faceted satin finish, and hand-polished soles. They also come with Bobby Jones’ logoed grips, head covers and shaft labels.

BobbyJonesgripheadcover

Grand Slam ($799.99)

The “Grand Slam” line has four different putters that commemorate Bobby Jones’ “Impregnable Quadrilateral” from 1930. The GS-1, GS-2, GS-3 and GS-4 are crafted from fine metals and hand-finished, and come with various custom options. This line will also come with Bobby Jones grips, head covers and shaft labels. This will be a super-limited edition release, with only 10 putters made of each model.

Bespoke Art ($1,499.99)

The “Bespoke Art” is a one-of-a-kind model that’s crafted individually by Dave Billings to the customer’s every spec and aesthetic preference. Each putter will come with a Certificate of Ownership, notes and drawings from Billings. These are made from options including Carbon Damascus, Mokume Gane and Titanium Demascus. Their precision, uniqueness and quality of metals justify the lofty price tag.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. MTek VersaSpeed

    Dec 3, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Walt, let us both celebrate & congratulate Machine Golf for its wonderful achievement in winning GolfWRX’s Custom Putter challenge this time hey!

    If you start a new thread in the forums mate, i’ll be there for a looksee.

    Dave, if i may ask – the mix between tech v looks when producing a new putter for market. Is there a fine line there? Or is it all about the end result (sinking the putt)? Any thoughts?

    Thanks for your time & patience!

    cheers, Mark
    Mtek VersaSpeed

  2. Walter Graves

    Dec 3, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Putter Challenge

    Dave Billings

    Double Duty-The divot repair putter.
    I would like to issue a challenge to Dave Billings and any of your associates that are willing
    to take my putter and use it against any other putter on the market in a putting contest on its
    putting ability only.
    If you have the nerve to do this, I will supply you or them with all the Double Duty Putters necessary( Up To 5 ) to meet the challenge.
    The putter and all the pertinent information may be seen at http://www.divotrepairputer.com

    Thank you for your time and I wait your reply.

    Walt Graves
    WH Golf LLC
    Divot Repair Putter
    3251 Lyndon Drive
    Little River, SC 29566
    (843) 399-4043

  3. Mtek VersaSpeed

    Dec 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Dave, your work is truly world class & its heartening to see Machine Golf (& a few other putter makers tbh) take on the real big boys head on with products that are super innovative, attractive & effective. Its no wonder there are so many happy golfers using Machine Putters around the globe, keep up the great work Machine Golf!

    ps – would love to know more about your Delta Proto! I had a adjustable mallet prototype conformed (by the USGA) way back in 2001 along the same lines as your Delta Proto. It went on to become …:) Good to see i’m not alone in the philosophy behind the innovation on your Awesome Delta Proto! Pm me if you like Dave!

    Cheers, Mark
    Mtek VersaSpeed

  4. TT X

    Dec 1, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Great to see/read about some serious innovation regarding the interchangablity and adjustability. Look forward to trying Dave Billings putters!

  5. tim

    Nov 30, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I love my machine putter. Dave was wonderful to work with. It will never come out of my bag. I may tinker with it some, but it will be my last putter.

  6. dion

    Nov 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    really nice putters but I have had my circle T scotty o two years ad I don’t know how these compare

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Equipment

Wunder: I’ve hit THESE new drivers this year…and this is what I think

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During this lockdown, I have done quite a few “Friday Q & A’s” on my IG, and one of the questions I get asked constantly is “have you hit this?” That, and “whaddya think?”

So, in the spirit of organizing my brain, it seemed like the right time to share what new drivers I have actually hit this year…and this is what I think.

Now, it needs to be said that there is a lot of new gear out there, but, to be honest, I’ve only actually hit a select few enough to actually build an opinion. “Enough” in this case is at least 20 balls. Some of these sticks I tested during our pre-launch preview with the OEMs, at the PGA show, a friend has one, or I actually have it in the bag.

Here we go.

TaylorMade SIM

Setup tested: SIM 9 @8.25 w/ Mitsubishi Chemical Kuro Kage XTS 70TX

LOOKS: The best way to describe how SIM looks behind the ball is “comfortable.” TaylorMade has always made drivers that just look correct. The lines are clean, the shape inspires playability, and I dig the paint job. They hit a home run with this one for sure.

FEEL: Best sound out there in my opinion. Heavy, dense, and if you get one dead-nuts center, it lets you know. The feel at contact is just as TaylorMade drivers have always done, center strikes feel like Thor’s hammer and mishits don’t kill your good vibes.

VS THE M5: I get asked this a lot. I loved the M5. Still do. To be honest the two drivers data wise were legit apples to apples. The only difference is my stock shot with M5 was a low spin straight ball and with SIM its a slight draw with a touch more spin and slightly lower launch. I prefer that.

OVERALL: In my opinion, the TaylorMade SIM is the cool kid in high school for 2020. Last year it was F9 followed closely by M5. TM knocked it outta the park on this one.

TaylorMade SIM Max

Setup tested: Sim Max 9 @8.25 w/ Mitsubishi Chemical Kuro Kage XTS 70TX

LOOKS: It has a bit more of a longer face at address, which makes the head appear shallow which inspires a bit more confidence to turn it over. That’s the main thing I noticed with MAX. Other than that its a tried and true TM shape.

FEEL: Like its sibling, it has a nice solid hit audibly at the impact. So, overall its apples to apples with SIM. However, due to the front weight missing on the MAX, the actual strike doesn’t feel AS meaty as SIM. Not a negative necessarily just something I noticed.

VS M6: Both of these sticks I launched a bit too high versus the weighted versions. That’s why they never got any serious consideration to actually put in play.

OVERALL: As a high launch, more forgiving option, it’s an ace.

Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero

Setup tested: Sub Zero 9 w/ Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei Blue AV 65TX

LOOKS: To my eyes, the newer versions of the Callaway drivers have looked a bit more compact than its competition. To me, this always looked “low spin” for whatever reason. The Mavrik has the same shape which is good.

FEEL: They really fixed the sound. The Epic Flash sounded like a pop can to me, and the Mavrik Sub Zero sounds like a sledgehammer. The good thing here is the sound now matches up with what the hit feels like. I think the Mavrik is the best feeling driver Callaway has made since Epic.

VS EPIC FLASH SZ: To me, a complete improvement on all fronts. Sound, feel, and performance for me were all substantially better. Now I must say that the Epic Flash Sub Zero was a great driver, I always got great numbers out of it, but the sound took me out of it. I’m sure there isn’t that much difference audibly between the two, but in this game, even something minor can represent so much. Sound to me is huge.

OVERALL: In all honestly, I haven’t given a Callaway driver a real hard look to actually put in the bag since Epic. The sound got louder wit Rogue and Epic Flash. The Mavrik SZ  however is a fantastic driver and will def get some more testing out of me.

Cobra SpeedZone

Setup tested: Cobra Speed Zone 9 @8.5 w/ Fujikura Ventus Black 7X

LOOKS: The F9 was a winner on all fronts. The only critique I had was optically it looked like the driver was a little too fade biased. The SZ with its milled in top line gives it softer look at address and for me, softer lines mean more workability, just what my eyes tell me.

FEEL: As with F9 and the earlier mentioned SIM, the Speed Zone sounds EXACTLY how a driver should sound. It has a very heavy hit audibly and that’s across the face. I love the sound of this driver.

VS F9: Apples to apples, it’s the same. Beyond the optics, it feels, sounds, and performs like the F9. Not a bad thing though, the F9 was the driver of 2019 in my opinion.

OVERALL: Nothing wrong with repeating an already awesome driver. SpeedZone will stand up to anything out there. If I’m being fair, I think F9 elevated things in 2019, and this year the competition caught up to it. Changes nothing about how good this driver is.

Cobra Speed Zone Xtreme

Setup tested: Cobra Speed Zone Xtreme 9 @8.5 w/ Fujikura Ventus Black 7X

LOOKS: Like the other drivers in this higher MOI category, it looks a little longer heel to toe.

FEEL: No different than the SpeedZone, sounds great, the impact is solid across the face, and even thin shots feel solid.

OVERALL: The Xtreme is the sleeper hit of 2020 and I’ve heard the fitters love this thing. It’s by far the easiest to hit and overall good time of any driver on this list. Is it longer? No. But is it Xtremely (no pun) playable and competitive? Hard yes. It’s a blast.

PXG Proto

Setup tested: PXG Proto 9 w/ Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 6 TX

LOOKS: Slick. Like all PXG gear, the look is there. The matte crown and elegant lines make it very pleasing optically. I also appreciate that although it’s designed to look high tech. The lines inspire playability, and who doesn’t love a driver that looks like a stealth bomber?

FEEL: I only hit about 20 balls with the PXG Proto in the short time I had with it, but, wow, did this thing surprise me. The sound oddly enough is a bit higher-pitched than the others on the list but for whatever reason, it’s not a distraction. It actually adds to the experience of the hit. I typically detest that, but this sound matched up with the solid hit I was getting. I’m not sure if this is the final version since its a limited tour proto but what is happening is definitely interesting.

VS GEN2: It’s just better. Feels better, sounds great, more playable across the face. The Gen2 did one thing better than everyone else, it destroyed spin. The problem I had was control. The PXG Proto is still low spin but with the new 4 weight system (no intel on the tech yet) seems to add quality launch to the low spin profile and puts the player in a situation where very few to any sacrifices are made.

OVERALL: I was a fan of Gen2. No doubt. But it never flat out beat M5, F9, or SIM. The Proto has elevated PXG’s driver game. I don’t think its a matter of whether or not the driver stands up with the irons, I believe PXG is on the right track to having a driver that eliminates any “yeah, but…” to the conversation. That’s a huge leap since Gen1. These guys are trending hard.

I hope this was helpful.

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What GolfWRXers are saying about the final version of Bryson DeChambeau’s LA Golf ‘Texas Rebar’ wedge shafts

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In our forums, our members have been discussing the final version of Bryson DeChambeau’s LA Golf ‘Texas Rebar’ wedge shafts. The look of the ultra-stiff shafts, which originated from Bryson wanting a “graphite shaft that was stiffer than the Dynamic Gold X7″, has impressed our members who have been praising the final version and sharing their thoughts on the concept.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • QuigleyDU: “Awesome.”
  • My2dogs: “Really coming out with some great new stuff.”
  • HateTheHighDraw: “MMT 125TX are absolute fire, but these must be much stiffer.”
  • Robkingasu: “Sweet!”

Entire Thread: “Bryson DeChambeau’s LA Golf ‘Texas Rebar’ wedge shafts”

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Should I move to heavier iron shafts? – GolfWRXers have their say

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In our forums, our members have been discussing the strategy of moving to heavier shafts in irons. WRXer ‘Z1ggy16’ has been making swing changes lately, and the transition has been most challenging for his iron play. ‘Ziggy16’ says:

“Been making some swing changes lately, most notably working to really shallow my club into the downswing. I’m finding that I’m doing this well with my heavy wedge shafts and driver, but I’m struggling a bit in my irons. My strike pattern with my wedges is pretty good, but the irons are a bit all over. Driver is 80g raw, wedges are 132g raw, irons 120g raw. I don’t think I want to go any stiffer, but is there a chance I’ve “outgrown” this weight and need to move to something a bit heavier to help keep these feels going through my set? No idea what swing speed is at this point, but my 7i is normally a smooth/comfortable 175-180 for me.

I really like the feel of my Accra Tour Z Xtreme 475 and my S400’s in the GW-LW. I’m kind of leaning maybe soft stepping modus 120TX or X100’s.. Heck maybe even S200 straight in? Normally I’d just get a fitting, but with Rona still going around, I’m not than keen on it. 2020 is the year of the self fit for me. FWIW, I used modus 120TX 2xSS in my GW & SW last year and that was pretty good feeling. Perhaps a touch too soft… they seemed to really whip/bend hard when hitting from the rough on full swings.”

Our members discuss whether they feel a switch to heavier shafts in the irons will have the desired impact.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Pepperturbo: “You’re not alone. Regardless of age, some of us swing better with heavier shafts. I went from 70g driver and 85g 3wd graphite shafts to 58g Ventus shaft in driver and 70g Ventus shaft in 4wd. In irons went from 130g X to 120g 6.0 PX steel shafts which lasted about fifteen years. Then last year made another downward weight change to Steelfiber (steel & graphite) 110g Stiff shafts, lightest I have ever played. Keep in mind as you transition, changing shaft weight is not the only answer. Increasing swing weight can make up for shaft weight. Though I really like them in 6-3i, not thrilled in SW-7i, so just ordered heavier Steelfiber i125g shafts for my PW-7i blades.”
  • Jeff58: “As someone who has gone through and continues to work on what sounds like a similar situation, your ideal iron shafts will likely change. Where they change to isn’t possible to predict with any degree of accuracy. Don’t change your current irons without knowing. It’s frustrating, expensive, and you won’t have any clubs while they’re being changed out. Instead, get a single club from dealsandsteals or similar and experiment with that. Also, the only relevant experience is outdoors under your actual turf conditions. Indoor and mat use can be grossly different.”
  • Red4282: “Just depends on your tempo and load and preferences tbh. My numbers are about identical to yours; I play 77g in the driver and 125 in the irons. I don’t think I could go lighter than 125.”
  • gvogel: “I have a set of hickory clubs. Of course, hickory shafts are darn heavy, maybe 150 grams or so. I probably hit straighter shots with the irons, and particularly hit better shots with the niblick (wedge). Driver and fairway woods, not so much. That might be a stupid insertion into an intelligent thread, but heavier goes straighter, lighter goes longer. You can go heavier, and it helps in transition, but don’t go too stiff.”

Entire Thread: “Should I switch to heavier iron shafts?”

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